National Robotics Initiative invests $38 million in next-generation robotics
24 October 2013
The National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and NASA, announced new investments totaling approximately $38 million for the development and use of robots that cooperatively work with people to enhance individual human capabilities, performance and safety.
These mark the second round of funding awards made through the National Robotics Initiative (NRI) launched with NSF as the lead federal agency just over two years ago as part of President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Initiative.
Funded projects target the creation of next-generation collaborative robots, or co-robots, for advanced manufacturing; civil and environmental infrastructure; health care and rehabilitation; military and homeland security; space and undersea exploration; food production, processing and distribution; independence and quality of life improvement and driver safety.
NSF funded 30 new projects, an investment of approximately $31 million during the next three years to advance the science of robotics across multiple sectors. This year's projects include research to improve robotic motion—advancing bipedal movement, dexterity and manipulation of robots and prostheses—and robotic sensing—advancing theories, models and algorithms to share and analyze data for robots to perform collective behaviors with humans and with other robots.
The projects also aim to enhance 3-D printing, develop co-robot mediators, improve the training of robots, advance the capabilities of surgical robotics and provide assistive robots for people with disabilities. In addition, the projects will improve the capability of robots for lifting and transporting heavy objects and for dangerous and complex tasks like search and rescue during disaster response.
NIH announced investments in three projects totaling approximately $2.4 million during the next five years. These include: the development of a co-robotic cane that could help individuals with visual impairments more easily navigate their environments; an MRI compatible robotic catheter that could enhance the safety and efficacy of catheter ablation for treatment of atrial fibrillation; and a novel way for engineers to systematically determine the optimal design for an assistive ankle device.
USDA announced five grants totaling $4.5 million to spur the development and use of robots in American agriculture production. These awards include research projects to develop robotics for fruit harvesting, early disease and stress detection in fruits and vegetables and water sampling in remote areas.
This year, NASA has continued to support all projects it awarded in 2012. NASA has awarded grants to eight American universities. Research topics range from avatar robots for co-exploration of hazardous environments to active skin for simplified tactile feedback in robotics. These projects will help enable NASA’s future missions while benefiting future co-robotic technology applications here on Earth.
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